For Many Essex Brokers, Real Estate Is A Family Affair | Father’s Day 2020

June 21, 2020

Happy Father’s Day! To celebrate, this year we asked a few brokers at Essex to share stories about how their father, uncle, or grandfather inspired their current real estate career.

It’s a Family Affair – “I would say my love for real estate is a family affair. My father, Larry, has always been involved in real estate. He owned farmland in Kansas and when he moved to Chicago in the 1970s he moved into a three-flat he purchased. He always taught me that real estate, in his opinion, is the foundation towards wealth. I have endless stories about my dad, my mentor and hero, but this story is what really sparked my love for real estate and helped inspire me to have a real estate career today.

When I was six years old my dad decided he was tired of being a commodity trader. He decided he was going to leave the Chicago Board of Trade after a 25-year career and start renovating apartments. The first building he bought to renovate, 622 Patterson, was what he called a “handy man special,” and helping my dad work on this building is what kicked off my passion for real estate today.

My dad put together a crew of over 25 guys to gut renovate, down to the studs, the entire 91-unit building, and I was attached to my dad’s hip for this entire process. Right when we started he took me to Home Depot and bought me a hammer, tool belt, hard hat, and drill – I know, I still can’t believe I convinced him to buy me, a six year old at the time, a drill. Once I was officially part of his crew he started calling me “Tool Man Clay.”

We lost my dad about nine months ago, so I now run Patterson as well as the rest of my family’s portfolio. A lot of the crew we hired in the 1990s who worked on Patterson, are still around today, helping with various projects and renovations, and to this day they still call me “Tool Man Clay.” – Clay Maxfield, Director

Don’t Wait to Buy, Buy and Wait – “My Uncle Joe and Uncle Mike both work in real estate and have played a big role in my real estate career. My Uncle Mike connected me with Essex back when I was still in college and that one simple connection was the spark of my brokerage career. My Uncle Joe inspired me to see the vision of what a committed career in real estate could grow into. He taught me a couple insanely valuable lessons – the first is, “don’t wait to buy, buy and wait,” and what that refers to is the power of owning real estate and growing a portfolio. The second lesson he taught me is the importance of quality property management and good tenant relations. For example, when snow starts to fall here in Chicago, his building is the first on the block to begin plowing, or when there is a maintenance request, his team immediately jumps to fix the problem. He does not defer maintenance to squeeze out a little more on his bottom line and I greatly respect that and think it shows in the quality of his real estate.

When I think about how I ended up in real estate today, I remember how much I admired the autonomy my uncle had in his life as a multifamily property owner. It was so clear to me as a kid that my uncle had the flexibility to march to the beat of his own drum and grow at his own pace. Real estate benefits the self-starters and self-driven individuals and although that comes with its fair share of higher-level responsibilities, I always admired the level of freedom my Uncle Joe has had in his life. I observed that at a young age and that trade off always seemed worth it to me.

My Father is the hardest working person I know. Although he has always verbally instilled the value of hard work to me and my sister, I feel he most strongly communicated this to us through the example he set every day. I learn best through observation so rather than receiving sage advice, I feel extremely lucky to have my father and uncles who all, in their own way, personify the best lessons about hard work, through their actions and the example they set each day.” – Matt Feo, Director

Working in Real Estate isn’t really “Work” – “I grew up in the Chicago real estate world. Both of my grandparents were investors here in the Chicagoland area on a small scale; they owned apartment buildings and investment properties. As a little kid I loved hanging out with my grandparents and I would always go with them to their buildings and “help” them out – I was probably just in the way but I have great memories of those days. My father and uncle were commercial developers in the Western Suburbs, so as I got older and understood more about what my dad did for a living, I began to work for him on weekends and in the summer. I was the go-to guy for grunt work, I helped carry supplies for their projects. I mowed a lot of lawns and picked up a lot of garbage in parking lots. Working on my family’s various properties was fun but I really became interested in real estate after my father and uncle redeveloped an office building and built out his own office space there. Throughout middle school and high school I would hang out at his new office and would hear their conversations about putting deals together and would watch them flip through architectural drawings to review development plans and projects. Those conversations always fascinated me.

After I graduated from college and years of seemingly endless lawns to mow, real estate was the last thing I wanted to do “when I grew up”, which was good because my family sold off most of their holdings so working in the family business was not an option. I finagled my way into working on the floor at the Chicago Board of Trade, but that detour didn’t last long. While at the CBOT I started selling homes, condos and apartment buildings to the people on the floor and in the pits and quickly realized working in real estate as an adult didn’t feel like “work” at all so I left the CBOT to get into brokerage full time.

The life lesson I carry with me today that I learned from my grandparents, father, and uncle is to work hard and never give up! Real estate can be a grind and they always instilled in me the mentality that whatever you set out to do, whether it be mowing grass, picking up garbage or building a building, you need to do the best job you can and never give up. Remembering that motto has helped me throughout my career today.” – Jim Darrow, Principal

Following my Grandfather’s Strategy – “My grandfather grew up during the Depression and like many of his generation, he was a true entrepreneur. He had a cleverness cultivated by the need to make ends meet during the most challenging economic time in our country’s history. Throughout his life that spirit would guide him to take advantage of small opportunities like buying used outboard motors in the fall and selling them for a profit in the spring and larger opportunities like buying the commercial strip where his pharmacy was located.

Even though his career was as a pharmacist, any wealth he accumulated came from real estate. I remember him saying that every property he bought seemed expensive at the time, but when he looked back they all seemed cheap. My grandfather’s strategy of purchasing well-located properties, using his creativity to hold on through tough times, and then enjoying the benefits of long-term appreciation is one I hope to replicate.” – Kate Varde, Principal

The Pull of Real Estate – “I am working in real estate today because of my dad. He has his own property management firm called The Braeside Group, so by trade his firm is a condo association management and apartment building management firm, but he has also worked as a developer and renovated value-add properties too. Growing up I felt like I was my dad’s right-hand man. I always tagged along whenever he went to one of his properties, whether we were there to fix a problem, paint a unit, mow a lawn – it didn’t matter because it was always just fun to be there working with him. All those years of working with him built my foundation for real estate knowledge today. I learned by doing. Working with him also helped me absorb his work ethic. The David Multack motto would be, “if you’re going to do a job, do it right the first time,” and I have tried to emulate that motto and my dad’s work ethic every day.

After college I started a career in logistics. It was a great job, but I knew it wasn’t the right career choice because I could feel the pull of real estate. Right when I started making money in logistics I was interested in investment real estate, because, like I had learned from my dad, buying and renovating buildings was fun!

I have been working at Essex for a few years now and I love the job, but I also enjoy being in the same industry as my dad now. We talk about our work all the time and I am so lucky to have him as a resource. He always has the best advice on how to work through a problem, and I am so happy that my real estate career has brought our relationship even closer together over the last few years.” – Jordan Multack, Director

Inspired by Self-Made Men – “When anyone asks about how I ended up working at Essex, I immediately think of my grandpa and my dad. They were both entrepreneurial, self-made men. My grandpa was a marine and after he left the service, he started his own design company that focused on the build out of pharmacy stores. He had an incredible work ethic and worked well into his 90s. He started each day with a strict regimen of 50 pushups – and to this day, he is still very active for his age, keeps up with current events and is a voracious reader. He has been a lifelong inspiration to me and provided an invaluable example of hard work, discipline, and leadership.

My dad is another great source of inspiration in my life. He is also a self-made entrepreneur. He put himself through college and later started his own design and exhibit firm. His business skills were largely self-taught, and he took calculated risks to create a brighter future for his family. I very much admire his bravery, vision, and ingenuity. He told me from a very young age that I could be and do anything, ultimately inspiring me to take the leap and leave my passionless job for a career at Essex, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I am so lucky to have these inspiring men in my life – they have always encouraged me to work hard, take risks and be a leader.” – Jaimie Steinher, Director

Real Estate is a lot of Fun – “My dad is Steve Goldstein with He is a veteran broker who has worked in the real estate business as a developer, office leasing broker, and commercial investment broker for over 30 years. I knew from a young age that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in real estate brokerage and investment real estate.

While growing up I enjoyed accompanying him on property tours, we were often walking through large vacant creative loft and office spaces with his clients. I remember how as a young kid, I would wear my Heelys, the shoes that you could skate on, and skate all over these big vacant spaces while he made deals and negotiated contracts. I would also accompany him to his club, where he would regularly meet with clients and other brokers over games of squash or paddle tennis. They would talk shop and make deals – I love that real estate is such a social business and saw first-hand from him how rewarding the relationships built in the brokerage business can be. Memories like these really helped show me how fun and enjoyable it is to have a career in real estate.

Growing up following my dad around really taught me a lot of great life lessons too about people, business, and the Chicago real estate markets. He really taught me how to grind, to set goals and to never quit and to keep your chin up along the way. I knew in high school I wanted to be in brokerage, and I feel so lucky today to be working in real estate and to have officially joined the family business.” – Jacob Goldstein, Director

Since 1990, Essex Realty Group, Inc. has served Chicago’s investment real estate market as a top multifamily brokerage firm. Contact us today to learn more about our recent multifamily and mixed-use property sales.

Tagged in this post: Jim Darrow , Kate Varde , Matt Feo , Jacob Goldstein